BY BOB KLEIN
CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, BLUE CHIP MARKETING
International Carwash Association's latest Consumer Study shows that Car wash cash registers were ringing like never before in 2019.
U.S. retail sales reached an estimated $11 billion. In so many ways, car wash operators cashed in on a proverbial trifecta. A thriving economy. A thriving auto industry. And a consumer passion for washing like never before.
The 2019 Car Wash Consumer Study, produced by International Carwash Association (ICA) since 1996, provides operators and suppliers with meaningful information, yielding insights that help inspire compelling business building plans.
The study was completed in August 2019. We surveyed 1,800 car owners or lessees, representative of the total U.S. Census.
Consistent with our historical studies, the 2019 survey addresses four foundational aspects of the industry:
• How has the mix of home versus professional car washing changed?
• What do consumers most value in car wash services?
• What would make consumers want to wash (or wash more often) at a professional car wash?
• What factors influence consumer preference for one professional car wash over another?
Here are the top 11 reasons why the industry was able to realize nearly $11 billion in sales:
83% of Americans who own or lease a vehicle used a Professional Car Wash (PRO) at least once in the past year. This is the highest percentage of PRO washers since the ICA conducted its first U.S. Consumer Study in 1996.
Home washing declined in popularity. The fact is, we live a world where convenience and quality are paramount. This is clearly evidenced as at-home washing (DIY) declined dramatically,
from 54% in 2016 to 42% in 2019. Car washes could not be more on-trend.
The desire for convenience and quality reached an all-time high among past-year car wash consumers. 77.5% chose a PRO wash most often while DIY most often declined to just 22.5%. This increase in the mix of PRO most often versus DIY most often is in sharp contrast with the mix just three years ago.
The health of the U.S. economy is huge. The confluence of record-low unemployment, strong consumer confidence and a 40-year-high in new vehicle sales were instrumental.
Our price/value is both fair and reasonable. Only 23% of all consumers expressed any dissatisfaction with the price paid per wash.
New vehicle owners are passionate about keeping their new vehicle looking new. 57% of new vehicle owners (3 years old or newer) wash their vehicles at a car wash once a month or more often compared to 44% of owners of vehicles more than 10 years old.
The passion for a clean car is rational and logical. 59% of Americans believe that washing a vehicle is an important and necessary part of routine maintenance. It protects the value of their vehicle, prevents rusting and is part of regular vehicle maintenance.
But even more so, the deepest passion lives in the heart. 86% say that “a clean vehicle makes me feel good” while 78% see it as “a good reflection on me.”
The love of a clean car is fueling unlimited wash programs. 14% of consumers claim to be members. The upside potential to drive membership is huge and another reason to be buoyed.
The desire for convenience extends to location. The growth of the industry is making car washes more convenient to find. Greater penetration and visibility triggers both the rational and emotional desire to have their vehicle look its best.
We’re becoming better marketers. The percentage of consumers who received online car wash communications increased by 45% since 2016. Still, there is enormous upside potential with only 16% having received any online communications in the past year.
You can learn more about these findings and discover new business-building insights
in the 2019 Car Wash Consumer Study: www.carwash.org/consumerstudy.